Make every day Earth Day | Barbara Luck, Washburn County Rivers and Lakes Association
WASHBURN COUNTY - There are two important dates one month apart that draw attention to our resilient but fragile environment: World Water Day, which was March 22 and focuses on the global water crisis of over 2 billion people lacking safe water, and Earth Day on April 22 which is the 50th anniversary of a day dedicated to improve care of the environment due to human behaviors.
Fifty years ago in 1970 people like author Rachel Carson were calling an alarm about the severe decrease in bald eagles caused by DDT and Wisconsin’s Senator Gaylord Nelson conceived the idea of Earth Day. The environmental issues were recognizing air and water pollution from factories and new technologies, saving whales, halting off-shore drilling, removing lead from paint, depleting natural resources and rain forest destruction. While some progress has been made, these environmental issues remain an ongoing challenge as these two noteworthy days seek to call for both individual and government action.
Surprisingly, 20 million Americans participated in the first Earth Day and forced the issue of environmental protection onto the national political agenda. The organization, Earth Day Network, was created to spearhead the agenda. Six months later, Congress quickly got to work. The Clean Water Act became law, followed by the Safe Drinking Water Act, Endangered Species Act, establishment of the EPA and the Environmental Protection Act, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, banning of DDT, removal of lead from gasoline and passage of the Toxic Substances Control Act and Marine Mammal Protection Act.
Earth Day is now a global movement involving 200 nations and billions of people. One of the main issues due to climate change is transitioning from fossil fuels to clean energy. Other current issues are the decrease in wildlife populations, ice depletion at our poles, severe loss of pollinators, hazardous waste disposal and ecosystem destruction. Today, saving our planet will address a broad spectrum from food systems to transportation to infrastructure to many cultural, economic and justice issues.
On this 50th anniversary of Earth Day, because of social distancing, there won’t be millions of people across the country marching to support environmental improvements. Ironically, we will reduce carbon emissions by not driving, while millions of people unite online to draw attention to the environmental crisis. If you want to help make history, you can watch Earth Day Network’s online teach-ins, follow social media campaigns, or watch live coverage of global digital mobilizations at earthday.org.
We are proud of Senator Gaylord Nelson and others who created the idea of Earth Day which is now a world-wide day calling for action. Similarly, World Water Day was established by the United Nations in 1993 and has made major improvements for many undeveloped countries’ water collection and storage systems. Though Wisconsin is fortunate to have a plentiful water supply, the quality can be threatened by fertilizers, pesticides, lead and other chemicals, agricultural (manure and cropland runoff) pollution, urban runoff and road salt. As people did in 1970, we can make our voices heard and act responsibly with our water and the environment. Small, ongoing actions by many make a difference.
Reconsider the amount of lawn fertilizers and pesticides that you use, as they eventually end up in our rivers and lakes which can cause nuisance algae blooms and deplete oxygen.
Use minimal washing machine/dishwasher soaps. Check the bottle, as with today’s efficient washing machines, it takes very little soap. Better yet, consider earth-friendly brands.
Make your own disinfectants which are better for the environment than many commercial products. For example, Earth Day Network suggests you can make disinfectant by mixing 30% hydrogen peroxide and 70% alcohol in a spray bottle. Simply spray and let it dry on the surface.
If you live on a lake or river, think about adding plants or trees near the water. It’s a win-win situation because they are nice to look at and they help protect the water supply from pollutants by intercepting rain and filtering runoff.
To avoid water pollution, do not dispose of oils, grease, fat or chemicals down the sink. Flushing pills or medications can also pollute groundwater and surface water.
Use less single-use plastic, as too much of it ends up in our waters. It doesn’t break down and causes pollution, danger to plants and water life. Even if it’s recycled, that still is plastic in another form and the process can release plastic irritants.
Find more ideas on what you can do every day of the year. Visit earthday.org/take-action-now/#actions.
What Earth Day action have you taken? Cleaned up a river? Started a pollinator garden? Planted a tree? Marched in a rally? Sent a letter to a legislator? Tell your favorite story and share a photo, if you want: northwoodsandwaters.org/tell-your-earth-day-story. Stories will be posted on the North Woods and Waters of the St. Croix Heritage Area website, and everyone who submits a story will be entered in a drawing to win a nature-themed prize.
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